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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online
CASE XIII - THE FLOATING HEAD OF THE BENRACHETT INN, NEAR THE PERTH ROAD, DUNDEE
It was to this cupboard, then, that Mrs. Murphy paid the greatest attention, before commencing to undress prior to getting into bed. She poked about in it for some moments, and then, apparently satisfied that no one was hidden there, continued her investigation of the room. Mr. Murphy did not assist--he pleaded fatigue, and sat on the corner of the bed munching a gingerbread and reading the _Dundee Advertiser_ till the operation was over. He then helped Mrs. Murphy unpack their portmanteau, and, during the process, whiled away so much time in conversation, that they were both startled when a clock from some adjacent church solemnly boomed twelve. They were then seized with something approaching a panic, and hastened to disrobe.
"I wish we had a night-light, John," Mrs. Murphy said, as she got up from her prayers. "I suppose it wouldn't do to keep one of the candles burning. I am not exactly afraid, only I don't fancy being left in the dark. I had a curious sensation when I was in the cupboard just now--I can't exactly explain it--but I feel now that I would like the light left burning."
"It certainly is rather a gloomy room," Mr. Murphy remarked, raising his eyes to the black oak ceiling, and then allowing them to dwell in turn on each of the angles and recesses. "And I agree with you it would be nice if we had a night-light, or, better still, gas. But as we haven't, my dear, and we shall be on our feet a good deal to-morrow, I think we ought to try and get to sleep as soon as possible."
He blew out the candle as he spoke, and quickly scrambled into bed. A long hush followed, broken only by the sound of breathing, and an occasional ticking as of some long-legged creature on the wall and window-blind. Mrs. Murphy could never remember if she actually went to sleep, but she is sure her husband did, as she distinctly heard him snore--and the sound, so detestable to her as a rule, was so welcome to her then. She was lying listening to it, and wishing with all her soul she could get to sleep, when she suddenly became aware of a smell--a most offensive, pungent odour, that blew across the room and crept up her nostrils. The cold perspiration of fear at once broke out on her forehead. Nasty as the smell was, it suggested something more horrible, something she dared not attempt to analyse. She thought several times of rousing her husband, but, remembering how tired he had been, she desisted, and, with all her faculties abnormally on the alert, she lay awake and listened. A deathlike hush hung over the house, interrupted at intervals by the surreptitious noises peculiar to the night--enigmatical creaks and footsteps, rustlings as of drapery, sighs and whisperings--all very faint, all very subtle, and all possibly, just possibly, attributable to natural causes. Mrs. Murphy caught herself--why, she could not say--waiting for some definite auditory manifestation of what she instinctively felt was near at hand. At present, however, she could not locate it, she could only speculate on its whereabouts--it was somewhere in the direction of the cupboard. And each time the stench came to her, the conviction that its origin was in the cupboard grew. At last, unable to sustain the suspense any longer, and urged on by an irresistible fascination, she got softly out of bed, and, creeping stealthily forward, found her way with surprisingly little difficulty (considering it was pitch dark and the room was unfamiliar to her) to the cupboard.